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Concern about the increase in sexually transmitted diseases: “Not even AIDS is scary anymore, and condoms are rarely used”

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In Spain, the latest data -from 2019- have already detected an increase in syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia Experts warn that although many sexually transmitted diseases are asymptomatic, they can cause long-term damage to organs such as the fallopian tubes The WHO has urged countries to increase the detection of these diseases Pediatricians first warned: adolescents are infected much more sexually transmitted diseases. And now the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that “in 2021 the rate of syphilis cases reached its highest level since 1991, and the total number of infections is the highest since 1948. There are also more cases of AIDS and HIV infections, specifically 16% more detections of the virus than in 2020”. In the same vein, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries “to increase funding for sexually transmitted infection (STI) services and focused efforts to expand prevention, testing and and treatment of STIs, and urges not to stigmatize, blame or shame”. In Spain, the latest data from the Ministry of Health on STIs are from 2019. Gonorrhea and syphilis have skyrocketed since 2001, when the incidence rate of both were around one infection per hundred thousand inhabitants, and around 20 in 2019. Chlamydia has almost tripled in three years (from 2016 to 2019).The only one that has decreased is the diagnosis of HIV, of which yes there are data from 2020. That year 41% fewer HIV infections were detected than in 2019. However, it must be taken into account that the pandemic prevented some sexual interactions but, above all, it has caused a drastic decrease in early detection of almost all the diseases. In the absence of more recent data, health professionals who treat sexual infections have indeed noticed an increase in their prevalence. “We detect it in clinical practice,” says Raquel Oliva, spokesperson for the Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics and a specialist in infectious diseases. “We see a lot more cases of sexually transmitted infections.” The cause, the gynecologist points out, is multifactorial: It is detected more due to the PCR techniques that have become popular in the last decade: “When a woman comes for a check-up, or for anything else, we gynecologists can detect that there is an STI “Most of these are asymptomatic, but they leave a trace such as increased flow, or variation in its consistency. And then we doctors do a culture and thus detect more diseases than before.” The use of condoms has been relaxed, especially among Young. “AIDS is no longer scary, and especially young people have stopped using condoms that protect a lot from STIs. This worries us gynecologists a lot because in women these infections can be left injuring the fallopian tubes. And when, years Later, they try to get pregnant, but they don’t get it because an old bug damaged their organs,” warns Oliva. Each individual has sexual relations with more people. “The age of onset of sex is 16 years on average, and the stabilization of couples sometimes happens up to 20 years later. That is, people have relationships with more people than before. This increases the risk of contagion of STIs”, explains the gynaecologist. Concern about HIV among adolescentsAdolescents constitute one of the few population groups worldwide in which new AIDS diagnoses are not declining, but are stagnant. In them, in addition, late diagnosis is a worrying reality, since it affects 30%. As reflected in the 2020 Spanish Youth Report (IJE), the age of onset of sexual intercourse was around 16 years old, one year less than estimated in the previous report, from 2016, and with no differences between men and women. Cristina Epalza Ibarrondo, member of the HIV and STI working group of the Spanish Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases (SEIP), clarifies in NIUS how the changes in the sexual habits of society are affecting adolescents, who , in their own words, “they start having sex without having had prior training or advice. I tell them that it is like starting to drive without having received classes.” The specialist calls for specific health care for boys and girls aged 9 to 18 “in confidence, a place where they find professionals who are a reference in health for them, and where they can talk or be advised even without the presence of His parents”. Adolescents have a lower perception of risk in general, and specifically in the face of AIDS, since they identify it with a disease with treatment. Late diagnosis is a reality in 35% of young people aged 15-24 in our country, according to 2020 data. This figure is lower than the global average of 47%, but it is extremely worrying, since it implies that more than a third of the young people who have been infected have already been diagnosed with damage to their immune system.

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